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The lives of Manhattan’s bicycle messengers, as seen through the eyes of a young immigrant woman.

Rarely noticed by outsiders unless they are the victims (or instigators) of traffic accidents, New York’s bicycle messengers form a kind of urban tribe with traditions and rituals all their own. Overwhelmingly male and young, the messengers are usually black or Hispanic kids from the rougher neighborhoods who scrape together a living with a set of wheels and a pair of strong legs, although you can find middle-class refugees (usually aspiring artists or actors) in their ranks as well. One of these is Whitey, rebellious son of a prosperous and staid southern family who dropped out of his Ivy League college to live on the Lower East Side and expand his consciousness through poetry and Eastern mysticism. Resolutely single in the true tradition of all outlaw geniuses, Whitey finds himself attracted to Yurika, a teenager who works in her uncle’s grocery in the East Village. Half-Korean and half-Japanese, Yurika is resented by her Korean aunt as standoffish and superior, but she works dutifully at the store and gradually improves her English with the help of her cousin Suzie and messengers like Whitey who come to flirt with her. She even (against her aunt and uncle’s wishes) goes out with Whitey, but she’s more attracted to Hector, another messenger who works for the same agency. While Whitey tries to win Yurika and find a congenial way of living in what he takes to be a decadent and commercial world, Yurika is more and more entranced by the openness of American life and excited by the prospect of putting her traditional Asian reticence behind her. Altogether, it’s a classic immigrant’s saga of newcomers taking up the American Dream that has been rejected by natives.

A naïve and somewhat raw debut, but with a fresh charm that makes up for much of the awkward pacing and rambling narrative.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2004
ISBN: 0-312-31245-8
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2003